BYU Student Team Tells Diverse Stories

PROVO, Utah – Mar 18, 2022 – Many college students often have to turn off social media in order to do their homework. However, social media is homework for four students at BYU. These students use social platforms to help their social impact project (SIP) partner Video Volunteers (VV) find individuals sharing personal stories of living in underrepresented communities.

Social impact projects are offered through the Ballard Center for Social Impact at the BYU Marriott School of Business. “The goal of these projects is for students to gain experience working as a team to solve a complex social problem,” says Jill Piacitelli, a Ballard Center adjunct professor who directs SIPs. The VV SIP team consists of Kelly Branson, a psychology senior from Palo Alto, California; Amanda Gardner, a psychology freshman from Springville, Utah; Colin Lund, a public relations senior from Peoria, Illinois; and Annabelle Peterson, an advertising junior from Salt Lake City.

As a nongovernmental organization, VV seeks to help all individuals tell their stories, bringing issues to larger audiences. Originally started in India, the organization is expanding to the United States, relying on the team of Ballard Center interns to find content creators telling personal stories to invite to the VV platform. In order to find people, the team scours social media for those sharing their experiences with topics such as disabilities, discrimination, homelessness, and displacement.

While the project is a valuable way to improve their résumés, members of the group add that they have developed greater compassion for those groups of people VV helps give a voice to. “Having this experience with Video Volunteers and having more empathy for others has been eye opening for me,” Peterson explains. “I thought I knew about multiple social issues, but after doing a little bit of research, I realized I did not know as much as I thought, so I feel like I am truly learning.”

While helping VV, the students appreciate the balance they have between putting their own mark on the project while also being mentored by professionals. The skills the team brings to the internship are diverse, given each student’s unique major and background. Because team members also work directly with the people they find, they experience social impact firsthand.

“My individual goal is to learn more about the creators we are meeting. I want to dive in and try to become familiar with them as people instead of just looking for what problem they are dealing with,” Gardner says.

As a team, the interns not only find American content creators for VV, they also create informational materials so the organization can replicate the team’s success. Additionally, the group provides social media recommendations. The four students are consistently online, so they are aware of trends and practices that can help VV better share stories.

Because of the joy they've found in their project, the students are also exploring ways to include social impact in their future careers. “I am energized every single time I leave class,” Gardner says. “I think being able to incorporate my joy for social impact into my future career would be ideal.”

Piacitelli explains that the SIP program is organized to provide students with meaningful experiences, both in the present and through future value. SIPs are open to all students at BYU, regardless of major or year in school. “The program is designed to combine classroom instruction, mentoring, and the actual internship into a transformative experience that informs future professional, personal, and academic decisions,” she adds.

The Ballard Center SIP team working with Video Volunteers. From left to right: Amanda Gardner, Collin Iund, Annabelle Peterson, and Kelly Branson. Photo courtesy of Annabelle Peterson.
The Ballard Center SIP team working with Video Volunteers. From left to right: Amanda Gardner, Colin Iund, Annabelle Peterson, and Kelly Branson. Photo courtesy of Annabelle Peterson.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Mike Miller